In Conversation With Anna Sampson Founder of The Chalet Edit

Anna Sampson is the founder of The Chalet Edit an award-winning luxury ski-chalet company that specialises in creating exceptional tailor-made ski chalet holidays to Europe’s leading ski resorts. Mountain enthusiast and travel industry expert Anna is taking the business from strength to strength, read on to discover more about her journey and key industry insights.

Describe a typical day – if such a thing exists!

Gosh this is a hard one! No day looks the same but it always starts with getting my little boy Jasper to nursery, he is 3 and likes lot of cuddles and attention in the mornings.

The first thing I do is check my emails and this way I can plan a little ‘to-do’ list to share with the team and get organized at the start of the day. It’s important to have a face-to-face call with the team to discuss any ongoing issues or thoughts and ideas on where to go with a client’s enquiry. I delegate various tasks to each team member and try to get them working on a different thing each day to keep their role varied and interesting.

I always have several projects running alongside my daily workload of providing bespoke quotes, taking bookings and pre-arrival concierge. Such as preparing our updated The Chalet Edit website for launch, contracting new chalets and villas, liaising with Press, writing content for blogs and mailers, planning and implementing strategy for the next season. You name it – and it’s on the list.

You launched The Chalet Edit in 2018, just before the Covid pandemic hit. What has been your biggest business challenge to date?

Navigating the fallout from Covid was something none of us could ever have prepared for, especially as most of our business comes from the UK and many of our clients were forbidden from travelling during much of the outbreak.

In December 2020 the ski season started as usual and all of sudden Covid restrictions were imposed and our clients could not take the holidays they had booked. We spent months unravelling things, refunding clients or moving clients’ holidays to the following season, unsure if they would even be able to travel then or refunding clients. Most of the work we did during that time was unpaid, we just had to hope that it would bounce back.

We took a huge number of booking for the 2021/2022 ski season, assured by the resorts that skiing would 100% be back on and that resorts would never let what had happened the year before happen again. Sadly they were wrong and we suffered another massive hit with resorts closed across France for a month from December to late-January during our peak season. Luckily, we were able to get some of our client’s skiing by the end of that season.

The biggest challenge of working during that time was managing client relationships and expectations.

If a lesson is to be learnt it’s to trust your gut, keep going through the adversity, if you believe in what you are doing it will come around in the end.

And likewise, what has been the most rewarding so far?

Seeing the incredible feedback we get from clients and creating a loyal client base who use us not only for their Winter Chalet holidays but also for Summer Villa breaks across the Mediterranean is amazing. Some clients travel with us up to three times a year, so that shows we must be doing something right!

You have a wealth of experience in the luxury travel sector (almost 20 years!) throughout your career how have you seen clients’ demands shift and what trends/demands do you predict for the coming years?

More and more clients are looking for companies like ours that really take the stress and hassle out of booking a holiday and sorting out the ‘fiddley’ extras like ski school, transfers, restaurant booking or even discovering experiences that only a local would know about. They want a true hand-holding experience, something that is tailored to their needs and is truly personalised.

I think the trend for expertise and personalisation is going to become huge, everyone is looking for someone they can rely on to sort out their everyday tasks at no additional cost, this is no truer than in the luxury travel sector. Clients don’t want to click and book, they want to feel looked after – as if they were a friend.

You are one of the only UK booking agent businesses founded by a single female in a very male-dominated industry – how do you feel about this and if / how does it influence the way in which you operate the business?

Luxury travel, especially the ski chalet side of things is very male-dominated and I’ve always worked for businesses owned and run by male founders. Their approach is often quite old-school; salesy and blunt. By setting up The Chalet Edit I wanted to foster a positive working environment that feels relaxed and less pushy, whilst nurturing clients a little bit more and providing a hand-holding service. Something more modern, unique and personalised.

What key advice would you give to someone starting a new business venture in the luxury travel sector?

Be brave and bold! If you put in the time, you will see the rewards. Owning a travel business is not something you can pick up and throw away. You need to be available 24 hours a day, if there are issues or problem your clients are going to look to you for answers. But when you get it right it’s the most incredible feeling and it will fuel your passion to keep pushing the business on and expand.

Your business is expanding! The Chalet Edit has a new little sister, with your portfolio now including The Villa Edit. Tell us more about this expansion and future plans.

Clients were increasingly asking us to help with Summer villa bookings and the natural progression was to set up a luxury villa holiday website founded on the same customer-focused philosophy. Our focus is still stylish, handpicked, private properties – with bespoke concierge services and exceptional customer service at heart. The site has a seriously high-end editorial look and is extremely simple to navigate.

The villas listed have been hand-picked from owners and professional local managers only and have undergone a rigorous vetting process to ensure the portfolio is the best of the best in terms of design, offering and staff.

We currently offer properties in all of Europe’s key destinations, from Ibiza, Mallorca, Mykonos and Corfu to St Tropez and the Amalfi Coast. Our portfolio is set for expansion to offer clients a broader selection of properties, from a range of gorgeous new luxury villas in St Tropez and the Cote d’Azur, as well as new properties in Portugal, Corfu and Ibiza.

In July 2022, The Chalet & Villa Edit was awarded the title of ‘Luxury Travel Agency of the Year’ in the London and the South East of England Prestige Awards. What a great achievement! How do you plan to maintain award-winning status?

Thank you so much, the award was such an amazing achievement after such a gruelling few years, it was great to see my team acknowledged for being the best in the market in excellence in service in product. The judges praised us on our attention to detail spent in assembling holiday and hand-crafting our client’s stays. We have already been asked by the British Travel Awards to nominate our Brand again, so watch this space. We are also applying for The Best Luxury Ski Agency at The World Ski Awards and hope to be included in their exclusive line of agents this year, we feel we’ve worked pretty hard to get there.

If you had to choose a ski or sun holiday which would it be and why?

As much as I adore skiing, it has to be a sun holiday for me all the way. I just love the beach, the sunshine, drinking cocktails in rooftop bars overlooking a bay, exploring new hilltop villages with tiny cobbled streets lined with boutiques, and visiting local galleries and historic landmarks. Swimming in the sea, sailing or power boating to a nearby island for lunch, taking a dip in a secluded bay. Summer just wins for me!

Luxury is highly subjective, what does it mean to you personally?

Luxury is a feeling of being pampered and taken care of, so that you don’t have to lift a finger or worry about a thing. It is that additional pleasure that you get from being somewhere that uplifts you and is outside of your normal surroundings. It is about getting back some time, to relax and enjoy the finer things in life.

What is your life motto?

I took inspiration from Richard Branson with this one – Screw it, let’s do it. If you don’t try you’ll never know, so take the leap of faith and believe in yourself that you can do it. If you put your all into something you will see that you are rewarded in leaps and bounds.

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